“Try solving these first.” Lu Qi’an handed the problems he made to Fu Jia, which pulled the boy out of his long, distracted state.
“Oh, okay.” Upon receiving the book filled with black ink scribbled on the pages, he fished his pencil case out of his bag while reading over the questions. As he felt around inside his bag, he realised that there was only a pencil that was about the size of a thumb, and its tip was also dull.
Where did his newly-purchased pen go? Goddammit, that Liu De!!
Cursing under his breath, Fu Jia awkwardly asked Lu Qi’an, “Do…you have a cutter? I need to sharpen my pencil.”
Fu Jia’s cutter never leaves his side, but the box-cutter was already stained with Liu De’s blood from earlier so he was utterly disgusted with it. He did not have a chance to buy a new one to replace it yet.
Lu Qi’an then handed the pen he was holding over to Fu Jia in response. “Here. Use this.”
Fu Jia reached out to grab it but ultimately decided not to in the end. “I won’t be able to afford it if I were to drop it by accident, so I’ll stick with mine. Just hand me a cutter? Any cutter will do, even a kitchen knife.”
Lu Qi’an placed the pen in front of him. “This is for you.”
Fu Jia shook his head. “No, thank you.”
There was no reaction from Lu Qi’an.
Fu Jia understood his stance on the matter. Regardless of whether he was willing to accept it or not, since Lu Qi’an said that it was a gift for him, Lu Qi’an will never ask for it back.
Picking up the pen, Fu Jia could faintly discern the warmth from the man’s fingers that once gripped it.
The palm of Lu Qi’an’s hand must be warm.
He removed the cap and began to solve the questions.
In the very beginning, Lu Qi’an spent the time watching Fu Jia tackling the problems. However, after he realised that Fu Jia was not making progress—the first question was still incomplete after two minutes—Lu Qi’an turned his attention elsewhere and retrieved a book from the bookshelf to read.
Lu Qi’an came up with a total of eight problems, but Fu Jia only had the knowledge to do half of it. He could not even understand the questions being asked in the other half.
This made him a little embarrassed to even mention it out loud.
“Done?” Seeing that Fu Jia was still stuck, Lu Qi’an closed the book.
“Almost,” Fu Jia assured stubbornly.
Lu Qi’an shuffled closer to look at his answers before saying, “You only got one right.”
Not bad, Fu Jia thought to himself. It was good enough that he did not acknowledge that he got seven of them wrong.
Maintaining this close proximity between them, Lu Qi’an began to explain the problems to Fu Jia. “For this question, you seem to have trouble understanding which topic it’s examining…”
Fu Jia listened seriously, occasionally asking questions. However, this did not last long as he soon was distracted. He stared at Lu Qi’an’s fingers while he listened, but whatever the other boy said fell on deaf ears.
Suddenly, Lu Qi’an fell silent.
Fu Jia instinctively looked up at him.
At first glance, Fu Jia felt his heart race wildly as blood surged to his head, but the emotions that washed over him soon dissipated the moment he clearly saw the expression on Lu Qi’an’s face.
It was an expression he knew all too well. There were no signs of happiness or disgust in them. There was absolutely nothing.
Suddenly, he felt compelled to ask, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Lu Qi’an slightly raised his brow as though he was asking, ‘like what’.
“Like…” Fu Jia pondered for a while, trying to find an appropriate way to describe it. “Like you’re looking at nothing.”
Upon hearing that, Lu Qi’an leaned back against his chair, and as a result, widened the distance between them. “I don’t think I am.”
“That’s basically how I see it, anyway. Take Aunt Chen for an example. She always looks at me with that pitiful look in her eyes. As for your brother…Although he doesn’t see me often, I’m certain about how much he wanted to glare me to death.” To be honest, Fu Jia really did not want to mention anyone from the Lin’s Villa, but he did not know how to describe the feeling to Lu Qi’an and used them as examples.
“What’s wrong with the way I look at you?” Lu Qi’an asked. “Are you hoping that I’ll pity you or hate your very existence?”
To which Fu Jia asked in reply, “Do you not pity…or hate me?”
“Yes.” There was no doubt in Lu Qi’an’s voice. “I don’t pity or hate you.”
Fu Jia pathetically lowered his gaze.
Even when he received the answer of his dreams, he realised that he was at a loss and clueless as to how he should handle it.
“That’s impossible.” Fu Jia was certain. “Both your aunt and your brother hate me so much. There’s no way you wouldn’t feel the same.”
“I don’t have a reason to hate you yet,” explained Lu Qi’an. “You probably have a hard time believing it, but I’ve always tried to treat you as objectively as possible. Putting aside your background and the environment you were in, I’ve always thought of you as an independent person.”
Fu Jia shook his head. “I don’t get it.”
Fu Jia obediently raised his head, but he kept his eyes fixated on the table surface, refusing to look at Lu Qi’an in the eyes.
Lu Qi’an continued. “There’s no denying that I was thinking of my aunt when I asked you to move out, but the bigger part of it was because you told me that you wanted to get to know me better.”
Fu Jia responded with a moody, non-committal sound.
He did say that, but where did it go wrong?
“I don’t want to be friends with a person who would subdue themselves to stay in a servant’s room, a person who wouldn’t leave no matter how they were driven away. However, I’m willing to be friends with someone who would leave that place, study hard, and live for themselves,” explained Lu Qi’an. “Do you understand now?”
After staying silent for about five seconds, Fu Jia vigorously shook his head before furiously nodding in reply.
His ears were so red they looked like blood was dripping from them. “I understand now.”
His voice trailed off, sounding exceptionally docile.
“Now that you understand, continue.”
“Okay.” The corner of Fu Jia’s lips curled up into a grin. “Here.” He pointed to the third question on the paper. “I didn’t get what you were saying earlier. Can you please explain it again?”
Lu Qi’an proceeded to explain the problems to Fu Jia again with more detail than before. Two hours later, Fu Jia finally understood all eight problems.
Leaning against the back of his chair, Lu Qi’an twisted his neck to relax the strain in his muscles.
Fu Jia carefully tore off the paper with Lu Qi’an’s questions as well the ones Lu Qi’an used to further his explanations. He then folded them up before putting them away in his bag. “How long will it take for me to get transferred into No. 6 High at this rate?” He asked.
After giving it some thought, Lu Qi’an replied, “Results won’t improve overnight. Perhaps you should consider repeating the year instead.”
Fu Jia almost choked on his saliva.
He pulled up the zipper on his bag in a hurry. His action were so rough that he almost pulled off the zipper.
Was he that dumb?
In any case, he already overstayed his welcome. Fu Jia did not want to wait for Lu Qi’an to kick him out, so he stood up on his own accord and said, “Thank you for today. I’m going to head back first. It’s Saturday tomorrow, can I come over again?” He tried to make it sound half-hearted on purpose.
Lu Qi’an nodded. “I’ll inform the guard earlier so you can come straight-in.”
“Oh…” Fu Jia bit his tongue to hold back a smile.
Standing up, he casually picked up the short stool. “I’ll help you put this back.”
“You don’t have to since we need it tomorrow again.”
Fu Jia placed the stool back down. This time, he could not control the smile emerging on his face, so he lowered his head, doing his best to hide it from view.
“I’m going now!” He turned around to leave.
Before he could, Lu Qi’an called him to a stop. “Fu Jia.”
Fu Jia almost forgot how to turn around.
“Do pay the hospital a visit to treat the wound on your face.”
Fu Jia was not sure why. He did not bother himself with this injury since he did not find it painful. He had even completely forgotten about it.
However, the moment Lu Qi’an said that, he suddenly found the pain to be unbearable. It hurt so much. It was so painful that all the areas of his body beaten up by Liu De and his gang last night were all screaming in agony.
“I know,” answered Fu Jia. “I’ll go there now.”
He did not look back and hurriedly left Lu Qi’an’s apartment. There was someone waiting for the elevator outside, but Fu Jia could not bring himself to wait a second longer. He directly went to push open the door to the staircase and ran down as fast as his legs could carry him.
He had to leave here quick.
If he did not, he would not have the heart to leave.
He ran out of the neighborhood without stopping. Covered in sweat, he gasped for air as he supported himself on his knees while resting by the roadside. It was only then did his breathing start to slowly recover.
On the way back to No. 16 High, he stopped by a small clinic to replace the medicine on his wound.
The doctor said that the weather was warm lately so it would be better not to have the wound covered by the gauze. However, when Fu Jia thought about the fact that he needed to meet Lu Qi’an tomorrow, he still insisted to make the doctor cover up his wound.
It still hurt.
The pain ached until Fu Jia fell asleep. Even when he was dreaming, there was no denying the throbbing pain he felt.
Saturday was an off-day for the students of No.16 High, but it was different for No. 6 High as they have a whole day of classes ahead of them. Early in the morning, Fu Jia went to wash the dishes at the restaurant he was part-timing at.
In-between classes, Lu Qi’an stopped Li Qinhe who was about to head next door to look for his girlfriend and said, “Do me a favor.”
Shocked out of his wits, Li Qinhe asked, “There’s still something that you couldn’t do?”
Lu Qi’an didn’t bother with formalities and said, “Help me find someone who’s in the same class as Fu Jia in No. 16 High. Ask them to find out what’s been happening to Fu Jia.”
“Fu Jia?” Li Qinhe was more confused than ever. “Am I hearing this right?”
Li Qinhe’s eyes darted around for a while. He seemed to have misunderstood Lu Qi’an’s intentions as he cried out upon realisation. “Oh! I get it now! You’re looking for someone to mess with him right? I’ve plenty of experience in this! Leave this to me!” He even gave his chest a little pat.
Lu Qi’an frowned at his reply. “You have experience?”
Li Qinhe flashed a grin. “Hehe. You have no idea about this, but Fengfeng and I share a little secret that’s hard to come by. Fengfeng was still a kid back then. He couldn’t take the new medicine, so in order to cheer him up—you could say I was willing to do anything for him.”
He scratched his head, feeling that he should not sound proud saying this, so he held back the flaunting tone from his voice. “Fengfeng told me to make Fu Jia suffer. He always stayed at home to get better, so he couldn’t go to school, let alone have any friends. So why could Fu Jia go and make friends? I asked someone to help ostracize Fu Jia from the class and pin the blame on him for stealing.”
He thought about it in detail. “I think Fu Jia was in junior high that time?”
Lu Qi’an was silent.
He knew that he did not know Fu Jia that well, but what he did not expect was how much he did not know about him.
“Was that the only time?” he asked.
Li Qinhe nodded. “Yeah.”
Lu Qi’an stared him in the eyes. ”
Intimidated beyond measure by the glare, Li Qinhe was beginning to feel something was amiss. “Maybe there are a few more times after that? But those were just small pranks…”
Lu Qi’an pursed his lips into a thin line, and said, “Don’t do that this time. I’m asking you to find someone to help Fu Jia.”
Needless to say, Li Qinhe was surprised.
Lu Qi’an went back to his seat, one-sidedly ending the conversation.
Anxious, Li Qinhe went over in a hurry and asked, “What’s up with you? What if Fengfeng find out about this?”
Taking in a deep breath before letting it out, Lu Qi’an explained, “Li Qinhe. We can love Fengfeng with all our hearts but we mustn’t spoil him.”
“What do you mean by that?” Li Qinhe was in a state of panic. “I heard you went to look for Fu Jia and asked him to get the hell out of the villa. I thought you could differentiate between who’s dear to you and who’s not. What’s up with the situation now?!”
“I also thought you knew what’s right and what’s wrong.” There was a incredible chill in Lu Qi’an’s voice. “You can measure some things with the same perspective, but you can’t apply it all the time to other situations. Do you seriously think Fu Jia deserved to endure all those things you did to him?”
“I…” Li Qinhe parted his mouth to defend himself but to no avail. Not a word left his mouth.
“Sit down. Class is going to start soon,” ordered Lu Qi’an.
Giving his head another scratch, Li Qinhe was dispirited for a long while before he gave an answer, “Got it. I’ll look for someone in a bit.”
It was the usual thanks that came from the Lu’s where not even a tiny bit of sincerity could be felt.
Li Qinhe sat back down in his seat and leaned over his desk facing away Lu Qi’an’s direction.
He suddenly recalled something.
At that time, they were still young and he came over to the villa to play with the others in the yard.
He had noticed there was a dark corner in the yard that was bare with nothing planted.
He suggested to Lu Qi’an, “Lu Qi’an, why don’t we plant a lemon tree there? We can even eat them once they’re ripe in the future!”
Before he even finished, he was already exhilarated at his own idea.
“No,” Lu Qi’an said while shaking his head in refusal. “That place mustn’t be covered up.”
“Why?” Li Qinhe stomped his foot. “It’s so empty, and it’s hideous to boot!”
“We just can’t.” At that age Lu Qi’an was already equipped with the patience to explain to others. “I have a friend there.”
“A friend?” Li Qinhe asked in confusion. He did not understand what Lu Qi’an was saying.
Underneath the rays of sunshine, Lu Qi’an beamed to his surprise.
He said, “Why else did you think I always brought Fengfeng here to play?”